Neil Walker is one of several hitters getting hot at the right time. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

First Pitch: Getting Hot at the Right Time

There’s one thing I’ve been saying in a lot of different articles over the past few days, and it remained true today: the Pirates have a lot of players who are getting hot at the right time.

The playoffs are set up in a way where, once you’re in, you can win it all. Anyone can win a one game Wild Card matchup. Anyone can win a best of five or a best of seven series. It’s not as much about talent in these cases. Instead, it’s about which team gets hot at the right time.

The Pirates have had a streaky offense all year. Their pitching staff has been consistent, and the main inconsistency on that front has been injuries. Lately they are seeing several members of the offense heating up, while watching the pitching staff fine tuning a few things along the way. Here are the recent trends from some of those players.

Starling Marte – Starting with his home run earlier in the week, Marte has a .357/.438/.643 line in 16 PA. That doesn’t include going 1-for-5 today.

Neil Walker is one of several hitters getting hot at the right time. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Neil Walker is one of several hitters getting hot at the right time. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Neil Walker – He had a four hit game on September 19th, and has gone .310/.412/.759 since that time, not counting today. Today’s numbers only add to that, as he went 2-for-5 with two homers. That gives him six homers in his last 34 at-bats.

Pedro Alvarez – He has a hit in eight of his last nine games, including today. Not including today, that stretch put him at .313/.353/.563 in 32 at-bats. Today he went 2-for-4 with a homer, his third during this stretch.

Marlon Byrd – He hasn’t been hitting for as much power lately, or this month, but he is hitting for average and getting on base. Today he did all of that, hitting a home run and picking up two other hits. That was his third multi-hit game in his last four games.

And in the “hopefully he’s heating back up” department…

Andrew McCutchen – He has been on a cold streak, going 3-for-27 in the last eight games leading into today’s game. He went 2-for-5 with a homer today. The three hits from before came in the second half of his cold streak. He’s now 5-for-19 in his last five games. That’s not great, but much better than the cold streak. I wouldn’t say McCutchen is on a hot streak at all, but hopefully today was the start of a well-timed hot streak from the MVP.

And then there’s the pitchers…

Francisco Liriano – He’s coming off a bad start against the Cubs, but that was on the road. The previous outing was at home, against the Reds, and saw him go eight innings with two runs allowed. The Pirates could use that kind of performance on Tuesday.

A.J. Burnett – In his final three starts of the year he has a 2.08 ERA in 21.2 innings, with a 26:7 K/BB ratio.

Charlie Morton – He didn’t have his best stuff today, and I’d say that’s due to the lefty-heavy Reds, but he usually does well against Cincinnati. In his previous two starts he has combined for one run allowed in 15 innings. He’s also been one of the best pitchers in the rotation over the last two months.

Gerrit Cole – You could argue that Cole has been the best pitcher in the rotation over the last two months, although he’s been on another level recently. In his last four starts he has a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings, with a 34:9 K/BB ratio. Those are ace numbers. He won’t be making his start tomorrow, and will be available for use in the Wild Card game.

The rotation is going to be the most important thing for the playoff success, but if the Pirates can also get production from McCutchen, Alvarez, Walker, Byrd, and Marte (AKA, the top and middle of the lineup), then they’re going to be in good shape in the post season.

Links and Notes

**Playoff Race Updates: Cardinals Close to Taking the Top Seed

**Pirates Power Their Way to Home Field in the Wild Card Game

**Here I take a look at my playoff roster, and ask Who Would Be On Your Playoff Roster?

**From earlier this week: Moneyball – The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Version

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

First Pitch: If That’s All For A.J. Burnett…

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First Pitch: Are the Pirates a Sign That Baseball is a Fair Game?

  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    Just wondering, why wouldn’t you do the math and include today’s numbers? It would seem to make your case more convincing.

    • Tim Williams

      Because I’m writing on the road right now, and don’t have my normal set up to combine all of the numbers before Baseball Reference and FanGraphs update tomorrow.

      I don’t think the above is any less convincing, and I’m not really making any big case here. Just showing some players who have been hitting well lately.

  • emjayinTN

    Resiliency is what marks this team. After going 2-5 in the last 7 home games against San Diego and Cincy, they go 4-1 on the road to wrap it up. The season has provided a number of opportunities for a lesser talented, less confident group of players, but they have always bounced back. This latest run has locked up the Wild Card Game for Pittsburgh, marked a career high in HR’s and RBI’s for Pedro Alvarez, made NH look like even more of a lock for GM of the Year by signing Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau for the stretch run, and insured that the Pirates ran the table with better than a .500 record in all 6 months of the season. The win yesterday means the Bucs can save Cole for Tuesday as a backup to Liriano, and that all of the relievers used yesterday – Mazzaro, Wilson, Watson, Melancon, and Morris will get 2 days of rest.

  • skliesen

    Here’s the truth: The Pirates are legitimate contenders to win it all because of their offense. Sure the SP and bullpen are ranked higher by a mile compared to other teams, but that fails to take into account the current lineup and production. If they can get past Cueto on Tuesday, they’ll be a tough out for any team.

  • leefoo

    Not all Buccos have been hot…from Bob S:

    “His contributions have been considerable, but Russell Martin has become an offensive liability. His batting line since the ASG: .207/.299/.352 – .651. In September: .127/.214/.222 – .436. With runners in scoring position, for the season, he’s batting .192.”



    • Brian Bernard

      Foo, you point out an average for Martin – but you know there is so much more to him than that. I remember seeing throws coming in from the outfield and the only thing I was thinking was IF Doumit would even be able to catch it! Times have changed, and what you want on the field is every guy that the team believes in and knows will get it done.
      I was thinking the same about Barmes on Friday, seeing him glide over taking a really bad hop easily and hitting Morneau in the chest with a perfect throw. Those subtle skills that get overshadowed by just average during the regular season, are exactly the kind of plays that MUST be made in the post-season. This team is set up for the playoffs with those kinds of players. A little luck (all the statistical people out there… FIP’s and such) is all I hope for on Tuesday. The right guys are here and they’re ready.

      • WTM

        The play on Schierholz to end the game the other day — no way any catcher we’ve had within recent memory makes that play other than Martin. Maybe Sanchez, I suppose, but nobody else.

    • Tim Williams

      Martin’s value comes from his defense. Any offensive production is a bonus. He’s a 4 win player this year, and almost all of that is from his defense.

    • buster09

      ” Offensive liabilities “. ALL teams have them,only the positions are different. Where is the Cardinal’s ? Where are the Red’s ? Where is the Dodger’s ? How about the Braves ? They ALL have at least one somewhere.

  • BucsStopHere

    Hot at the right time is meaningless in a one game winner take all game. One hot pitcher and the Buccos are out…crazy after 162 games. Go Bucs!

  • Y2JGQ2

    I love Martin’s defense, and his offense the first half of the year was great- It’s about time now though, to drop him to 8 in the lineup, he looks lost out there… signs of breaking out of it.

  • CalipariFan506

    Win or lose on Tuesday and this has been a great season. Finally the Pirates have finished strong. That is all any of us “naysayers” and “bad fans” really wanted to see. No more will you have to hear us fearing the collapse.

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